The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the U.S. over the past few months. Since early March 2020, our country has seen over 16 million cases of the virus and over 300 thousand deaths.
During this difficult time, pharmacists have been on the front lines managing and preventing the spread of COVID-19. Some brave and passionate pharmacy students even graduated early to step up and offer their services.
Now, with the introduction of a new vaccine to prevent the virus, things seem to be taking a turn in the right direction.
The First COVID-19 Vaccine:
On December 11, 2020, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 vaccine after thorough evaluation of the vaccine’s available safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality information.
In an official press release, FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. said, “The first COVID-19 vaccine is a significant milestone in battling this devastating pandemic that has affected so many families in the [U.S] and around the world.”
With this announcement, pharmacies and pharmacists across the country are gearing up to begin administering vaccines to U.S. citizens. Here’s a look at the role they’ll play in COVID-19 vaccination.
Administering the COVID-19 Vaccine
The first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine were administered beginning on December 14, 2020. This marked the beginning of what will likely be a long process to administer the vaccine to the general public, in which pharmacy professionals will play an important role.
As a first step, the Department of Health and Human Services officially authorized state-licensed pharmacists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to increase access and availability across the country. The following is a more detailed breakdown of the pharmacy professionals able to administer the vaccine according to a resource sheet released by American Pharmacists Association (APhA):
- State Licensed Pharmacists – can order and administer COVID-19 vaccines
- State-Authorized Pharmacy Interns – can administer COVID-19 vaccinations under supervision of a readily available, qualified pharmacist
- Qualified Pharmacy Technicians – can administer COVID-19 vaccinations under supervision of a readily available, qualified pharmacist
Vaccination will likely occur in a phased approach. Front line health workers and residents of long-term care facilities will likely be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In many cases, pharmacists will be the ones to deliver these vaccines. More information about the nationwide plan for vaccination can be found of the CDC website.
Pharmacists across the country have expressed their excitement about playing such an active and important role in the path towards helping the country overcome this global pandemic.
An inpatient pharmacist in New Orleans was the first person in Louisiana to administer the vaccine. On a recent episode of The Daily Podcast, they said the opportunity to play a role in vaccinating against the virus has been a career highlight.
A Greater Demand for Pharmacists:
Given the important part they’ll play in administering the COVID-19 vaccine over the next few months, pharmacists and other pharmacy professionals are in high demand nationwide.
According to a recent Bloomberg article, large chain pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are hiring thousands of professionals to assist with COVID-19 testing, vaccination, and more. In some cases, sign-on bonuses of up to $30 thousand dollars are being offered.
This increased demand speaks to the importance of pharmacists and pharmacy professionals in the current healthcare landscape.